Times are tough right now—2020, enough said. But if you’re finding yourself regularly succumbing to negative thought patterns, it’s time to snap out of it. It can be daunting to wade through the murky waters of so much uncertainty, but that doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. If anxious thoughts are swirling around in your brain like a tornado each night and preventing you from sleeping, you’re noticing that you’re quick to anger and frustration and have lost your usual joyful spark, and you’re beating yourself up over small mistakes, then this article is for you. Take charge of your well-being and happiness by putting your mental health at the top of your priorities list. These six tips are a great place to start.
1. Keep a Journal.
Keeping a journal is a great way to “brain dump” in the evening to get those anxious thoughts off your mind, allowing you to clock better quality sleep. Each night, record anything that’s bothering you, problems you’re working on solutions to, or your nagging to-do list. Especially when it comes to prioritizing what needs to be done or what worries you can cast aside, brain dumping can help you navigate the areas you should devote attention to. Dr. Mark Mayfield, a Board Certified Counselor and Founder/CEO of Mayfield Counseling Centers, is a big fan of journaling. “The next morning, I will read what I wrote the night before and prioritize the importance of each thought,” he said. “If it is important and essential, I will pick it back up. If it isn’t, I will allow it to stay in the journal,” he says.
2. Focus on Solutions, Not Problems.
Not to be pessimistic or anything, but no matter what, every day will bring some sort of challenge that needs solving. Knowing this, you can choose to view each problem as an opportunity to define creative solutions. “Solution mindsets move us out of dwelling on the negatives, and into pushing forward towards exciting possibilities,” said Dian Griesel, a certified clinical hypnotherapist, member of the American Counseling Association, and lifetime member of the International Association of Counselors and Therapists. “This is very powerful because [it means] we’ve refocused our energy towards something we can control versus something we cannot.”
3. Imagine Someone Is Watching.
How would you react to a frustrating situation if you knew someone was watching you? Would you scream and curse, or would you keep your cool? Griesel says for her, whenever things get challenging and she is at wit’s end, she tries to react to the situation as though her daughter was watching, knowing that it’s her job to show her daughter how to handle emotions positively. “It’s like pretending you’re living on a reality show, and the world is watching,” she said. “Try it. You will be amazed at how you start to think and do things differently, knowing that you want to always lead by example.”
4. Try the Release & Replace Technique.
If negative thoughts are crowding your mind, try this approach. Replace each negative thought with its positive counterpart. For example, if you were struggling to find employment, release the thought, “I’ll never find another job,” and replace it with, “I’ll do everything in my power to provide myself the resources to successfully find work.” Doing this helps train your mind to choose thoughts that are useful and discard those that aren’t, according to Ora Nadrich, president of the Institute for Transformation Thinking.
5. Be Kind to Yourself.
It’s easy to beat yourself up when life gets tough. But that isn’t going to do you or your mind any good. Instead, take a deep breath and don’t judge yourself too harshly. “Remember, you control two things each day: Your attitude and your effort,” says Ken Falke, a US Navy veteran and author of Struggle Well: Thriving in the Aftermath of Trauma. “Be mindful about both, and know you will make mistakes. Learn from those and keep growing and going.”
6. Seek Help.
According to the World Health Organization, one in four people worldwide will be affected by mental health disorders in their lifetime. In the United States, more than 43 million people are dealing with mental health issues right now. If you are experiencing tell-tale signs of mental illness, such as dramatic changes in sleep or appetite, persistent mood changes, withdrawal, feelings of worthlessness, and decreased ability to cope, please seek out a mental health expert and get the help and support you need. For mental health resources visit nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help.